Conestoga professor Nancy Nelson was honoured with the Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education at an awards gala held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on May 26. Nelson holds the distinction of being the first college professor to receive the medal.
Conestoga professor Nancy Nelson received the 2016 Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education at the Engineers Canada awards gala on May 26. She is pictured with Digvir Jayas, president of Engineers Canada and Jim Samaras of Manulife, the award sponsor.
Engineers Canada, the national association of Canada's engineering regulatory bodies, has awarded the Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education annually since 1995. The award recognizes an exemplary contribution to the engineering profession at Canadian universities and encourages excellence in teaching. It is one of nine distinguished awards presented by Engineers Canada at its annual gala.
“I’m really honoured. Education is so important and I’ve always been passionate about it. This is also important for the college. We are a small engineering school, but we have a unique centre here and we’re doing things that other schools aren’t,” said Nelson.
Conestoga was the first college in Ontario and the second Institute of Technology in Canada to receive accreditation by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. Conestoga’s Mechanical Systems Engineering degree was accredited in 2010 and the Electronic Systems Engineering degree was accredited in 2014. Both programs feature small classes, project-based learning and co-op work experience to prepare graduates for success in their chosen fields.
Nelson joined Conestoga in 1984 and has demonstrated a commitment to excellence and innovation in engineering education throughout her career. She introduced and refined many innovative instructional strategies, methodologies and technologies into the classroom, including project-based learning, flipped learning and the use of interactive presentation and delivery tools. Project-based learning, which provides students with a challenging, relevant learning experience that builds knowledge and skills, was first used in the Electronic Systems Engineering program which Nelson spearheaded and designed.
In a recent interview Nelson said her professional mission statement is captured by one of 10 rules to teach by - a list of rules she keeps posted in her workspace. The rule - aim for an environment of learning instead of schooling - serves as a reminder to Nelson that teachers need to provide an environment that challenges students: “Teaching is about the learner. It’s about being adaptable and making learning about the student, not us. We need to provide an environment that makes them want to learn.”
Nelson shares her teaching insights with other educators as a facilitator, presenter and new faculty mentor for the College Educators Development Program (CEDP) and has developed and conducted many CEDP presentations and workshops on a range of topics. She said that she is motivated and inspired by new teachers who are enthusiastic about education.
In her role Nelson has also worked with primary and secondary schools on outreach activities like Go ENG Girl, Day with a Difference and the CyberOlympiad. These Conestoga events are offered to secondary school students to promote engineering and encourage students, girls in particular, to consider engineering as a career option.
In addition to the Medal of Distinction, Nelson received the coveted Aubrey Hagar Award for Teaching Excellence at Conestoga in 2003. This annual award is recognizes a faculty member who has made an outstanding contribution to the college through teaching. In 1996, she was awarded the McGraw-Hill Educational Innovation Award for her co-development of Private School Interactive courseware preparation and delivery software.
Nelson and other Engineers Canada award winners were recently profiled in the Globe & Mail.
For more information, visit the Engineers Canada website